Creative Writing PhD

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PhD Creative Writing

  • Full time: 4 years (3 years registered study plus one year thesis pending).
  • Part time: 8 years (6 years registered study plus two years thesis pending).

Completion earlier than this is possible, with the approval of your supervisors and provided that the minimum study period has been completed.

Entry requirements
  • an undergraduate honours degree at 2:1 level or above or international equivalent
  • a masters degree at Merit level or above in the relevant area
  • a detailed research proposal

Applicants without a masters degree who can demonstrate equivalent expertise are invited to contact the School for further advice.

Please note, for acceptance on to a PhD you must also have a confirmed supervisor from within the School of English.


7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date

Our standard start dates are:  1st of October and 1st of February

Candidates may be able to start at other times of the year but this is subject to agreement with the School.


University Park

Other requirements



Features of a PhD in Creative Writing

A PhD Creative Writing thesis will primarily consist of your own original creative work. The creative element could be a novel, a manuscript of poems, a collection of short stories, a play, or another form of creative output, as required by the project. Alongside this you'll be expected to write a critical analysis of the work, and the context in which it is situated, in order that it can be considered an academic project of PhD standard.

A PhD thesis should not normally exceed 100,000 words in length. It is expected that the creative element would usually comprise 50,000-70,000 words of this, dependent upon the format of the thesis. The analysis will normally be 15,000-30,000 words in length.

See the full list of supervision areas in the school

The school also has links to eminent writers through a number of Honorary Professorships, Honorary Lectureships (such as novelist Alison Moore, poet, Ruth Fainlight and screenplay writer Billy Ivory). The School is also home to the literary journal in letters, The Letters Page, edited by Professor of Creative Writing, Jon McGregor.

The school also has links to eminent writers through a number of  Honorary Professorships (such as Jon McGregor and   'The Letters Page' ), and  Honorary Lectureships (such as novelist Alison Moore, poet, Ruth Fainlight and screenplay writer Billy Ivory).

Applying for a PhD in Creative Writing

Your application should demonstrate how your project will satisfy the requirements above, and the qualifications you have that will enable you to undertake the project.

You will therefore be required to provide a PhD proposal with your application, which will set out how your project will be structured.

A sample of your creative work is also required.

Key Elements of a PhD Proposal


A PhD proposal should be a minimum of 1000 words. There is no upward limit for proposals, although successful proposals that have concisely covered the points above are often not much longer than about 2000 or 3000 words. This will vary depending upon your proposed project.

Content and methodology

The proposal should be detailed and focused. The basis of a good proposal is usually a set of questions, approaches, and objectives which clearly outline your proposed project and what you want to accomplish. The proposal should also clearly demonstrate how you are going to accomplish this. A key component of this is being able to show you are extremely familiar with the work in your field and how it will guide your project, including:

  • the methodologies that you will use in your project (as appropriate);
  • the necessary resources and facilities you will need to carry out your project.

Find out more about how to write a research proposal.

Your background and successes to date

What is unique about your project? Potential supervisors will be looking for evidence of your ability to date, and an indication that you will bring your project in on time.

You should therefore include:

  • a summary of any further research experience, in addition to your academic qualifications.
    This could include work undertaken at undergraduate or masters level, or outside the educational system. It should also be reflected in your referee choice - we will expect you to have chosen referees who can comment on your preparedness for PhD study and the proposed project you have chosen;
  • an indication of a member of academic staff in the School you would like to work with (see our Staff Profiles).

Any additional evidence (previous experience, publications, performance, and other outputs etc) will also be considered.

Start Date

Our standard start dates are:  1st of October and 1st of February

Candidates may be able to start at other times of the year but this is subject to agreement with the School.

Programme Details


A PhD in the School of English will comprise mainly independent study, with supervision meetings spread throughout the year. There are no taught credits attached to a PhD, although it is compulsory for full-time students to attend the Arts Faculty Researcher Skills training programme. Some PhD students also choose to audit masters modules taught by their supervisors where appropriate, however this is not compulsory, and would not involve any formal assessment.

Annual Review

All PhD students take part in annual review assessments to ensure they are progressing satisfactorily. This usually consists of the submission of a written report. For full-time students, the first year is probationary (first two years for part-time students), and the first year annual review involves a viva with an independent internal assessor.

Part Time / Distance Learning Opportunities

The School of English does not have a formal distance learning provision for PhD study. If you are applying to undertake doctoral research in the school without being based on campus, we would ask that you let us know at the earliest opportunity, so that we can discuss whether you will be able to meet the school and University's requirements for research students.

It is also recommended that you consider the following requirements:

Registration and induction

If you are not based in Nottingham, you would usually be registered as a part-time student.

The University and School of English run a week of induction programmes before the start of term each year (usually the last week of September), which provides new students with the opportunity to meet key members of staff in the school. There are also events which help you to get started with IT access and accessing library materials. You would be expected to attend this programme.

Supervision meetings

Supervision meetings should be a simultaneous meeting between you and your supervisor(s), which may include face-to-face meetings, but can also include Skype, video-conference sessions, or the use of other packages which enable contemporaneous dialogue between the parties involved. We would expect you to have your first supervision meeting and at least one supervision a year face-to-face.


All research students in the School of English must attend the compulsory core part of the Arts Faculty Researcher Skills Programme (see Course Research Support, below). Most sessions are delivered on campus and in term time, however the University has a substantial amount of material available electronically and online. You may also wish to refer to our student handbook to get an idea of what studying away from campus might be like.

PGR symposium

The School of English PGR Symposium takes place annually in May. Whilst not compulsory for part time students, you would be expected to attend one symposium over the period of your registration.


Wherever possible we would expect your viva examination to be face-to-face.



Dedicated office space in the school

Research students have their own dedicated shared office space with access to networked PCs and printers. This space enables students to work alongside other research students in the School and take part in postgraduate life.

Social and meeting space

A Graduate Centre for postgraduate students in the Arts and Social Sciences is available on the first floor of Highfield House on Park Campus. Accessible 24/7, the Centre provides computer stations, a social area with informal seating and areas where students can work individually or in groups. Students can also access a small seminar room and kitchen facilities.

Postgraduate research students also have access to the student common room space shared with the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (CLAS) on the lower ground floor of the Trent Building where there is social space, meeting space and shared kitchen facilities.

There is also a café on the lower ground floor of the Trent Building as well as a number of food outlets and coffee shops just a short walk away from the research student offices.

Library facilities

The Hallward Library has excellent provision of books, periodicals and online resources in all aspects of English studies, with some notable special collections relating to the school’s research, and manuscripts and special collections in custom-built premises. The school also has new laboratory space to support areas of research in applied linguistics.

The school is home to the English Place-Name Society library and archive, and to the five-million CANCODE corpus of spoken English. This is also a rich library of resources at the University of Nottingham, including:

  • a large collection of manuscripts from the 12th to the 15th centuries
  • extensive holdings in Old and Middle English, Old Icelandic, Viking Studies and runology
  • DH Lawrence archive
  • Portland Library Collection
  • Cambridge Drama Collection
  • a rich collection of 1930s theatre materials
  • access to locally held Byron collections

Research support

Our students join a lively, diverse and international body of researchers, one in which an exceptionally wide range of specialist interests is combined with a close-knit sense of community.

Regular supervision

Each postgraduate research student in the school will have a team of at least two supervisors. Full-time students will meet with their supervisory team at least 10 times each year (six times for part-time students).

Your supervisors will help you to realise your research project and to guide you through your research to completion. Many students will also attend conferences and publish papers in conjunction with their supervisors, to gain valuable experience and contacts in the academic community.

Researcher training

Alongside regular supervision, all students in the school are required to attend the Arts Researcher Skills Programme, provided by the University's Graduate School. This programme is delivered at key stages throughout your research; in addition to the core programme a range of optional courses will support you to become effective, well-organised researchers, deliver your proposed project on time, and become highly employable in the Sector.

In addition to the Arts Researcher Skills Programme, a wealth of other optional training courses are available in a variety of formats to enable you to achieve your potential whether you are on-site or further away.

Professional development

Research students benefit from a research and mentoring culture which includes:

  • opportunities to teach in the school and develop related skills
  • student-led fortnightly research seminars and annual symposium
  • research networks created by the research centres and individual research projects
  • research council-funded international research exchange visits with leading universities
  • co-authorship with members of staff
  • dedicated staff-postgraduate reading groups
  • interdisciplinary research seminars
  • support for participation in international conferences and seminars

Postgraduate seminars and conference attendance

A fortnightly seminar series is run by and for the postgraduate students in the school during term time. The seminars provide a forum for students to share work in progress with staff and peers, to hear from invited speakers, and to explore key academic and career topics in a supportive and sociable atmosphere.

University support

A number of University support services exist to assist you during your time at Nottingham and beyond.


Find a supervisor

You may find it helpful to get in touch with a member of academic staff about your research proposal before submitting an application. They may be able to help you with your proposal and offer support to find funding opportunities in your area.

Details of research supervisors can be found on the School website.


Fees and funding

Many of the financial support options require you to hold an offer of a place to study at Nottingham before you can make an application for funding.

It is therefore highly recommended that you begin the application process in time to meet the funding deadlines.

Remember to check the eligibility criteria for the funding source(s) that you intend to apply for.

For more information please visit:

UK/EU Students

The Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership supports the personal and professional development of the next generation of arts and humanities doctoral researchers. Studentships are available to UK/EU students.

Funding applications for 2019 entry open 8 October 2018.

The Partnership is a collaboration between the universities of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Leicester, De Montfort, Birmingham, Birmingham City, Coventry and Warwick.

Further information regarding funding opportunities can be found on the school's postgraduate research funding webpages.

Government loans for doctoral study

The Government recently introduced doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent research programmes. Applicants must ordinarily live in England.

Doctoral training programmes

Linked to research councils, doctoral training programmes offer funding opportunities connected to our research priorities.

International and EU students

Research scholarships are available for outstanding international and EU students. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Teaching opportunities

The School of English offers opportunities for some of our research students to teach at undergraduate level. Research students normally apply to be a part-time teacher from their second year of PhD registration onwards.

Average starting salary

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers.*

In 2016, 94.1% of postgraduates from the School of English who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £21,333 with the highest being £22,000.**

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.
** Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The School plays an important part in the career progression of its postgraduates, who benefit from a research and mentoring culture which includes:

  • opportunities for postgraduates to teach and to develop a teaching profile and teaching-related skills
  • postgraduate-led research seminar series and annual conference
  • provision of infrastructural support for postgraduate-organised international conferences
  • research networks created by the Research Centres, Institute, and individual research projects
  • research council-funded international research exchange visits with leading universities
  • co-authorship with members of staff
  • interdisciplinary research seminars
  • postgraduate participation in international conferences/seminars

There are also:

  • dedicated staff-postgraduate reading groups such as the Speculative fiction/Science Fiction Reading Group and the Landscape Space and Place Reading Group.

Our postgraduates are extremely successful in securing academic posts and postdoctoral positions, and a significant number of students who completed their PhDs in the last five years are now in full-time academic posts.

Those who take up a postgraduate research opportunity with us will also benefit from their access to discipline- and stage- specific expertise from dedicated careers staff for the Faculty of Arts  in the University’s Careers and Employability Service.

Conducting postgraduate work in the School of English fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market. Studying at this level allows you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields.

We will help you develop your ability to research and process a large amount of information quickly, and to present the results of your research in an articulate and effective way. A postgraduate degree in English from an institution like the University of Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training.

Our applicants are among the best in the country, and employers expect the best from our graduates.


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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